Kiwis struggling more than ever with hay fever, only getting worse in future

If you have hay fever and have noticed it's been worse than usual this year, you're not alone.

A season of strong grass growth has led to sufferers reaching for the antihistamine like never before.

And while the end is in sight this season - there's a warning in the long-term it'll only get worse.

It's summer, and people have hayfever. Ask anyone who suffers from it, and they'll tell you this year has been particularly bad.

"Oh real bad, heaps more pollen around I think," one person told Newshub, while another person said "it bothers you. You can't think straight sometimes".

Another said "your eyes just start to water for no reason" while another person added, "some days it's like you can barely function without a tissue every five minutes".

Officially known as allergic rhinitis, hay fever affects around a third of New Zealanders.

This year, those Kiwis are really feeling it.

"Antihistamine sales have been exceptional probably, this year," MetService pollen forecaster David Fountain told Newshub. 

In early spring, the culprit is usually tree pollen. By Christmas time, it's grass and weed pollens and the grass growth this year has been particularly strong.

"Clouds of invisible pollen, early in the morning, pervading everything," Fountain said. "Outside, inside, up your nose, the whole shebang."

The good news in the short-term, a reprieve is in sight.

"The grasses are going to seed, so we've definitely seen the worst of it in all districts," Fountain said. "In the next couple of weeks, it'll all be over."

But here's the bad news - thanks to climate change, it's only going to get worse in the future.

"A lot more grass is growing a lot faster, much higher levels of pollen, and much more allergenic pollen in the atmosphere," Allergy New Zealand advisor Penny Jorgensen told Newshub.

"A windier climate, all of these things are contributing to people being exposed to a lot more and a lot stronger allergens."

Most sufferers simply pop an antihistamine and hope for the best, but Allergy NZ said immunotherapy treatments could fix the problem for life.

"It's not funded by PHARMAC so it's out of reach for most people, and we think that's something that needs to be investigated, particularly for children," Jorgensen said.

The best advice is to stay indoors with the windows shut. The sea breeze blows allergens away so consider a beach holiday.

And a reminder - some symptoms may be similar to COVID symptoms, so if you're not sure, give Healthline a ring.

Watch the full story above.